rowyn: (studious)
Talking about using Discord for an RPG reminded me of how the media in which I play a game shapes the game. Every medium has its own strength and weaknesses. For example:

Face-to-face: In-person games have great advantages in speed. It's much faster when you can see and hear players clearly. You can use physical props readily: miniatures, dice, and game boards are easy to use in-person. But there are disadvantages to face-to-face: there's no built-in, automatic record of game play. You have to schedule a time and you can only play with the people who show up. During play, the GM either has to prepare for a variety of different player choices, or limit player choice, or be good at improvising. I find game play less immersive in person: it's hard for a GM to play multiple NPCs at once who are presenting different perspectives or arguing with each other. It's also hard for a player to convincingly play characters who are very unlike the player.

Video or voice-based games: I have little experience with these, and what I do is mostly "this is an inferior version of face-to-face." The only advantage I know of over face-to-face is "you don't have to physically get people in the same room". If there are others, they've eluded me.

Online scheduled games: My own experience with this is mostly on MUCKs, but it's played similarly for me on other text-based chat clients. This style approximates face-to-face in that participants all show up at a scheduled time, all play and respond to each other in real time, and stop playing at the end of the session. The advantages of this style: it's easy and natural for the GM to switch between characters, and participants can easily be characters who are nothing like themselves. The GM still needs to prepare/improvise, but usually has a little more time to think between actions, because play is slower. Disadvantages: play is slower (everything has to be typed). There are "virtual tabletop" tools out there; I don't know if these come close to the ease of setup of real props now, because I haven't tried them in years.

Online unscheduled synchronous games: This is the MUCK style of "you show up when you want to roleplay and play with whoever's there". I have never found this to be a very satisfying model of roleplay, because it's hard to tell a story when you don't know who will be involved in it or for how long. Sometimes this encourages burnout -- people who are hyperinvolved and always on and always playing until they flame out after a few months. But I've known other people who made it work. The main advantage over scheduled is in the name: you don't have to schedule play.

Email or forum-based games: These play fairly similarly in my experience. Participants play by posting to the email group or forum. Play is asynchronous: you send a post to the group and you get responses hours or days later. Email is good for games that are driven by conversation or player actions that don't require die rolls. They are terrible for games with a lot of combat or anything else that requires die-rolling. It's good in that you don't have to schedule a time for it, and bad in that it can result in burnout -- people can't look away from the game for fear it will get away from them.

Discord is an interesting medium for a game because a Discord chat group has a persistent history. MUCKs and many chat clients only show you the activity while you are connected to them. Discord will let you scroll back to the start of the chat, if you want.

Discord can be set up to give notifications, or not, so it's easy to see if a chat is active or to ignore it.

For various reasons, my own preferred play is unscheduled and asynchronous. I am generally okay with responding in a time frame of "several hours" and run into issues when it's "a few minutes".

And I am thinking: how do you structure a story so that it best accommodates my style of play? For example, I know that if I want to play a combat-heavy dungeon stomp, I'm best off doing that face-to-face.

But if I want to have a game where:
* Play is unscheduled and unsynchronous
* Participants are involved at varying levels of commitment: some people respond quickly, some respond slowly

What kind of features built into the story will best enable that?

One thing that I discovered while playing with Bard Bloom was that telepathy among the PCs was extremely useful for keeping a game active. All the players could talk to each other without the GM needing to be involved in the conversation, even if the party was presently split up.

Splitting up the party had advantages in forum/email play that it doesn't have in most other forms of play: it allows the GM to interact with each player on that player's priorities, without them getting trampled over by players who respond more quickly. This requires a pretty active GM. In theory, you could get this same effect in Discord by splitting the party between different chat channels. I'm not sure how well it would work in practice.

Mostly, I am thinking about story features like "telepathy": things you can set up so there's an in-character explanation for something that is useful/needed due to out-of-character reasons. What if there's a story explanation for why characters are more or less active at different point in the story, for OOC reasons? One of my friends used to play a game where the characters all had a curse that sometimes one or more of them would turn into a gemstone, and the other characters would have to protect them. The "curse" took effect if the player was absent that week. This isn't a very compelling storytelling hook by itself, but it's the kind of thing I'm thinking about. What if the game took place on an astral plane, and characters act at different speeds depending on arbitrary factors (that amount OOCly to "how available were various participants?") How do you structure this so that players don't feel like they're disadvantaged if they're not around as much?

Anyway, I am kind of stuck on what kind of stories lend themselves best to the format, and what kind of system. So I wanted to write this out and see what other people thought. :)
rowyn: (Default)
I'd like to run a Choose Your Own Adventure-style game, probably on Twitter, possibly in parallel on Dreamwidth & Mastodon.

The game will be a fantasy romance. Other factors -- player gender, orientation, social status, species, central conflict, etc. -- will be chosen by poll. Whatever is most popular in the set-up polls will determine the game's beginning.

Gameplay will be a handful of tweets per day or so: a couple hundred words, max. There'll be a poll to determine what the protagonist does next. But with the gameplay polls, I will roll % to determine which option wins. This way, players can write-in options and those will have a chance of happening.

I will reserve two (2) GM Fudges Roll options, where I can pick the winner myself because I like a particular write-in option. I'll only do this for write-ins, and only if I think the write-in is good for the protagonist. If/when I do this, I'll announce it.

If there's interest on any given platform, I'll run the game in parallel. Each game will have the same start, but Dreamwidth polls and comments would only direct the Dreamwidth game. Twitter polls and comments could take the game in a different direction on Twitter. The same people can play on multiple platforms, I don't care.

This post is to gauge interest -- if you'd like to play, leave a comment.

* I am going to continue to mirror DW to LJ. People leaving comments on LJ will count as playing in the DW game. I don't think the polls will import to LJ, though, so you'll have to come to DW if you want to vote in a poll.
rowyn: (Default)
Everyone ends up with their own pet peeves in tabletop gaming. One of mine, which has annoyed me since I started gaming 38 years ago, is "character creation choices that require the players to bet on how long the game will last."

Most games are short-lived. I haven't made up as many characters for games that never started as I have for ones that have, but the ratio is probably no better than 1:3. Many games that make it to one session do not get more than one. The campaign that goes on for years is the outlier. Moreover, you never know which you're going to get when you're making up a character. Plans for epic story arc campaigns often die after a few sessions. The game where my character gained the most power, from starting level to finish, was advertised by its GM as 'a half-assed playtest that will peter out after a week or two.' Mirari and Game of October were both intended to be short-term games and both ran for 2-4 years and had more than a hundred sessions each. The only sense in which they were "short term" was that they each ended at the completion of the game's full story arc. ("Just Trust Me", which took several months to finish, was as close as I ever got to running an actual short-but-complete game).

My point: I can tell you many things about a game during character creation, but "how long will it last" is SO not one of them. And yet many games have things which are in place nominally for "character balance" but in practice are only "balanced" if your game is lasts for exactly X sessions. In original AD&D, the nonhuman races generally had stat advantages but in most cases had harsh level caps. If your game didn't last past level 5, the elves and half-orcs were clearly better. If your game lasted to level 18, they were at a vicious, hideous handicap. (If your group actually played with level caps. I don't know anyone who did.)

Most of D&D descendants don't take approaches quite this dramatic, but I still know many systems where you can take a short-term handicap to get a long-term advantage. "Your character is a Quick Learner: pay 10 xp now and get +1 xp per session." Or conversely: "You are a Slow Learner but you've studied hard to get this far: you get an extra 10 xp to spend now but will get -1 xp per session". Sometimes the abilities themselves are like this: "the skill is useless at the starting level but it's great once you've built it up." "This skill starts out great but it doesn't improve at all with experience, unlike other skills." Vampire: the Masquerade did this thing where your max power was entirely determined by your generation. If you didn't buy the lowest possible generation at game start, your character could never become powerful -- but if you did, you had few points left to be competent at the outset.

It's like the designers think "well, you can trade being great now for being great later, that's balanced." Except that I don't know if later exists, and if later does exist, I have no idea how much later there will be. It's like being told "plan for your retirement: you have about a 40% chance of dying tomorrow and a 1% chance of living 2000 years, and we're not going to tell you the odds of the possibilities in between, and no, you can't get a job again later if you don't save enough. GOOD LUCK." Systems like these always make me feel like the game hasn't even started yet and I've already lost.

I usually make the bet that the game will last for years, when some system makes me do it. I don't think I've ever been right.All my games that lasted for years weren't in systems that did this.

That may not be coincidence, come to think of it.

Nothing in particular motivated this, just thinking about game systems. So what are your tabletop peeves or preferences?
rowyn: (current)

Saturday, Lut and I both went over to Fred's place for boardgames, with Steve (whom I'd met Thursday at Tabletop) also joining us.  We started off with Trajan, a worker placement/resource management game that most of us hadn't played before. It featured a curious Mancala-like mechanism for selecting your next action. I quite liked it, enough to request that we play it a second time. I won the first game and came in last the second, having completely failed to successfully pursue a new strategy.


After that, we went old-school with a game of Titan. Fred, Lut and I have all played tons of Titan, most of it many years ago. Steve had never played before, and was pretty lost for most of the game. I had forgotten how long Titan takes to play with four fairly cautious players. I've played lots of games with Telnar where he trashed me in under an hour, but this one went for two and a half before we simply called it after I knocked Lut out of the game. And even taking that long, no one actually made it to recruiting dragons or giants, though Lut had gotten one unicorn. Still, had a good time with it.


Sunday, I went to Tyson's. Tyson had been making noises about running a tabletop RPG for the last few weeks. I am not very enthusiastic about tabletop RP, or about being a PC, but last week he had out an RP book for Monsterhearts, which is kind of "Buffy: the RPG". The PCs are highschool students of various supernatural archetypes, and the system is simple and social/romantic/storytelling in orientation. +Terrible Butterflies+ has proved to me that I have a fondness for Supernatural Teen Angst, so I told Tyson, "Okay, if you want to run *this*, I'm up for it." Rebecca was also interested, and Nick and Brett were fine with it, so this week Tyson started the game.


Character generation took an hour or so, most of it with the players deciding what archetypes to go with. Picking abilities and whatnot was pretty straightforward. We played for a couple of hours, which was quite fun. Tyson had an interesting mechanism for GMing, which I think he'd borrowed from another gaming system. He'd go around the table with questions for each of us, to flesh out the setting. Eg: "Camilla: you were the last person to see Angela last night. Where were you and why did she leave early?" It was a good tool both for giving the players some input on the setting and for taking some of the 'make stuff up now' pressure off of the GM. During play, the PCs tended to focus on their own little arcs, but Tyson was good about taking turns with each of us, and the players were  good about trying to drag other PCs into their arcs.


The game mechanics encouraged party interaction with a mechanic called 'strings'. Each PC started by having some Strings on other PCs and NPCs, and by some other PCs having strings on them. Various game-mechanic things would let you spend a string to influence that character or rolls involving that character. Eg: Kyle spent a String that he had on Stark to get Stark to help him with a revenge ploy. From a character perspective, it's good to have Strings on other people and bad for other characters to have Strings on you.


From a player perspective, I thought Strings were just good, regardless of direction -- having my character in debt to someone else mainly meant 'increased likelihood of interesting stuff happening to me'. For example, Nick got to pick a PC to have a crush on his character and thereby get two strings on, and chose mine. So I got to spend the session with my character mooning after his and helping his PC out, which was more fun than anything I'd have come up with on my own.


The archetype I selected was "The Queen", which is also 'the popular girl' and doesn't have a lot of supernatural power.  I picked it because (a) I have never been 'the popular girl' in RL, and (b) I've never really played that archetype, either. The archetype sheet lends itself to the nasty version of 'popular girl', the clique leader that spurns and destroys the outcasts. I didn't go this route, partly because I am terrible at playing mean people and partly because my most vivid recollection of a girl in my school that everyone liked was one who was super-nice. So I generally tried to play her as kind and caring even with people she'd turned down. I am not sure this was the best choice from an 'interesting character with problems' standpoint, but we'll see. My character's clique is her rockband. I kinda want to dress IC for the next session, but I'm not sure how she'd dress, or if I own the kind of clothes she'd wear (jeans and t-shirts aside). Hmm.


The GM wrote up a game summary, so I figure I'll post that in a separate entry, along with some snippets from the game. (I am not going to try to recap the whole game, after seeing how long that took with the one session of Little Fears.

rowyn: (content)
Ganked from [ profile] pyat  This thing is ginourmous, so I'm just gonna post whatever bits I finish, and maybe do more later if I feel like it.  See Pyat's entry for the whole meme.

Roleplaying Nerdgasm
The Role-Playing Character Quiz
Whipped up by j_cat

Characters mentioned within:

Laughing Lady, Seraph, Fyiara, Cyprian, Elf, Terry, Sharra.

-Introductory Questions-

What medium do you use? (ex: Dungeons and Dragons, MUDs, Live Action, hand puppets, etc.) :

From 1978-1996, I mostly did tabletop roleplay.  From 1997-2007, mostly MUCK.  2007-2008, mostly PBEM. 2009 has been mixed between PBEM and MUCK.  I still do the occasional guest stint in tabletop roleplay, but I've not been in a regular tabletop group since '96.  I actually did some of what's arguably roleplay on Furry from 91-'96, but for purposes of this quiz, I'm limiting myself to games with a GM, or at least something that looked sort of like a GM or had a structured format of some kind.

For systems, I've used (in semi-chronological order):

Basic D&D
AD&D (mostly 1.0. I made two abortive attempts at 2.0 that lasted less than a session.  A few of [ profile] jordangreywolf's sessions used 3.5, I think)
Hero System: Champions (homebrew mix of 3.0 and 4.0).
Fantasy Hero
Vampire: World of Darkness
Mage: the Ascension
Savage Worlds
Sinai (homebrew)
Shadake (homebrew)
+Terrible Butterflies+ (homebrew)
Honored (homebrew)
World Tree

And probably some others that are slipping my mind.

Who are your favorite characters?

"Favorites" are hard to pick.  I'll select some memorable ones from over the years.

The Laughing Lady (NPC): From the Honored PBEM. The Honored were the native people in the setting, and for certain reasons, it's extremely difficult and rare for Honored to use violence or any kind of force against one another.  As a result, their government was more akin to cat-herding than ruling as such.  The Laughing Lady was one of the city's Regents, a physically imposing sphynx bejeweled with her honor. She had an air of authority, a certain mental toughness and social fearlessness, and a kind of irreverence.  She was very old, not at all frail, and didn't take herself -- or anyone else -- too seriously.  She only had a brief appearance on-camera, but was surprisingly popular with the players when she came up in OOC chat. 

Seraph (PC): [ profile] bard_bloom's +terrible butterflies+ game is one of my favorite games ever, and certainly the game I had the most fun playing, but I don't know that my character from the game is really my favorite PC.  All of the +terrible butterflies+ were insane, and Seraph was no exception.  When Seraph was born, she thought she was an angel, sent by God to wreak vengeance upon Stefan by killing him and possessing his body to make restitution for his sins.  She thought her powers were gifts from God.  Seraph went through a number of transformations over the course of the game. She soon lost her belief that she was an angel but held onto her Christian faith, and did not quite let go of it even when she was told (by people who were in a position to know and who had no reason to lie) that Christ was a hoax perpetuated by an astral mage pretending to be God.   She was always trying to do the Right Thing, and often struggling to figure out what that was, with thousands of human lives hinging on her decisions. She's also one of the few PCs I've played who's fallen in love -- maybe the only one -- and that romance became the center of her life; it was the one thing that didn't change while the whole of the world fell out from under her.  She had some great scenes.

Fyiara (NPC): The Dean of Chaos Magic at the College of Magic on Sinai. She first showed up in a log that was overrun with NPCs, and expressed my frustration with my own difficulties in managing the situation by being bored, irreverent, and informal in a situation where all the other NPCs were overbearingly serious, formal, and preoccupied with minutiae.  She went on to other supporting roles, and got further fleshed out: she was in charge of her sphere magic because she was the least-unacceptable candidate for the job.  She really was an excellent Chaos Mage and a good academic and researcher, but she was at best a mediocre Dean; organizing and leading were talents quite beyond her. She called everyone "sweetie", or by their given names, in a setting where everyone used titles and surnames.  Fyiara is one of the few female characters I've ever made that I really like.

Cyprian (NPC): During my first appearance on Sinai, as assistant GM to Greywolf, I created Cyprian as a throwaway NPC implementing one of the puzzles of the session.  One of the PCs for that session, [ profile] brennabat's Elise, liked the NPC so much that she wanted to talk to him again.  Cyprian was an Eeee (a humanoid bat), a citizen of Babel, and a mind mage.  He had a number of conflicting loyalties -- to his people, to his country, to his sinister gods, and to the college of magic.  I used him as an example of why good people believe in and worship evil gods: because to those people, those gods are real. You don't sacrifice sapients to the gods because you want to, but because you don't have any choice, because the gods will destroy you and everyone you care about if you don't. Not believing in them and not worshipping them won't make them go away.  Cyprian was intensely private and controlled, with sociopathic tendencies that he overrode via a prosthetic conscience he'd invented out of magic and implanted on himself.  He was pretty messed up overall.  He and Elise had a long-running forbidden love that was never consummated.

Elf (PC):  One of the characters from the Polaris superhero game I played in college. Chris was a good-natured college student who worked part-time at a day care center.  One of his hobbies was role-playing, and his friends called him "Elf" because "Well, he's an elf.  You can just tell."  He got turned into an actual pointy-eared elf by a supervillain who was mind-controlling him. After the heroes rescued him, he was turned into a PC because both I and some of the players liked him.  His powers were not particularly interesting -- I think he had flight and martial arts -- but he was involved in some interesting story arcs, including a reprise encounter with the original supervillain that had made him.  I think he's the only tabletop character I had who ever got seduced.  By another PC, even.

Terry, the Thief from Argus (PC): From a high school-era D&D game.  She was the first PC I had whose adventures had some actual narrative structure: she was a 14 year-old street urchin in a small city named Argus, which had a lot of empty building. Her adventures started when the city's army returned after several decades, looking for reinforcements and support. Reaction from Argus: "We're at war?  We have an army?"  The army wound up annexing the city and throwing a number of the citizens in oubliettes dug in their camp outside the city. It was silly in a way that still made sense; I enjoyed it enough that I wrote the first several chapters of it out in novel form.  The book petered off when the story-like structure of the campaign started to unravel, and it no longer seemed like a single story with a continuing plot.

Do you play characters that are not of the gender you identify with?

When I'm GMing, frequently. My PCs are usually female, though.  I like to have gender-balance in games, so I'll be male if everyone else is female, but that doesn't happen very often.  Seraph's human body was male in part because most of the other PCs were female.

Who was your first character?

I think she was a human cleric.  With a hammer.  I was 8 years old and didn't play her for more than a couple of games, so it wasn't very memorable.

Who is your latest character?

For PCs, the latest is Kythera, a demanding, petulant, and arrogant dragon somewhat in the vein of the dragons in [ profile] bard_bloom's Mating Flight. The PBEM she's in doesn't exactly have a GM, though. If I don't count Kythera, the next most recent is Harley, a modern 'taur: half human and half motorcycle.

Most Popular Character?

I'm not sure. Fyiara, maybe.

Which character is most like you?

Most of my PCs are like me, only shaped by a totally different background and with actual drive and/or ambition to do something and not just muddle through life. Especially when it comes to questions of "how?" as opposed to "what?" The one that reminds me most of myself ... um. Sharra, my shapeshifter from the Polaris game, I guess.

Who would you like to be more like?
Seraph, if she were actually sane. Yay, incredible cosmic power! I generally like the traits I tried to embody in her -- loving, dedicated, and a good moral sense. She didn't really turn out much better at implementing them than I am, which really isn't surprising when you think about it.

Who’s the character you love but have never played?

There's one character that I have tried to play three times, with three different GMs. Each of the games died after one session or less. Details varied, but the basic concept was: "She has a power, second sight, which lets her see perceive spirits and receive visions that are imperceptible to other people. She also has a disad: hallucinates. She can't tell the difference between actual spirits and hallucinations." I always thought that would be neat to play out, but never really got to.

This is already pretty long, and the later questions don't interest me as much, so I'll cut it here.

But I wanna know: who're your own favorites of your characters?
rowyn: (studious)
For those who are curious: I've created a community, [ profile] sleethnamedthis, where I'll be posting the logs from my World Tree game. (Or bribing my players to post them for me.) I've already posted the "prelude" log. This was a little light RP between two of the PCs to establish their characters; it happened before I actually started running the game.
rowyn: (studious)
Both PBEMs I've been in had no formal limit on posting. In both of them had phases where the list generated 100+ posts per day. (I don't think either ever hit 200 in a day, but I wouldn't swear to it.) [ profile] koogrr called it "drinking from the firehose." [ profile] terrycloth once described it as 'the tendency for PBEM to eat your life'.

I actually enjoy having my real life consumed by a fantasy one, but I recognize that not everyone does. (Lut, for example, dislikes having my RL overwritten by my VR. =D )

There are various factors that are likely to make my next game naturally have less traffic than the previous ones:

* I'm likely to set aside hours where I won't be posting -- probably from 8 or 9PM to 7AM CDT. This will ensure that Lut has my attention for a few non-sleeping hours every day. :) This won't be hard-and-fast -- I might toss off quick emails just before bed -- but I won't be spending four hours every night writing email for the game, either. Which, um, I have been known to do in the past. ^_^;;

* Since the game will only encompass 24 hours +/- of in-game time, I expect little if any time-bubbling. When Honored stopped having time-bubbles, list traffic dropped from 150+ emails per day to 30-. There were other factors lowering traffic on Honored at that time, though.

* There'll be fewer PCs in this game than in Honored (which started with six) or +Terrible Butterflies+ (which started with five). I'm expecting to cap this game at four PCs and there's a reasonable chance I'll run with fewer than that. I may have other people playing NPC-ish roles if I get any volunteers for that. I'll talk about this more in a separate post.

Another point to bear in mind: "number of posts per day" is the easiest metric to pull out, but it's not the most accurate one to describe volume. Some PBEM posts set scenes or contained responses to several different previous posts, and these might have several hundred words of new text. Others were only a sentence. I'd guess that the typical PBEM message is about the same length as a typical pose on a MUCK -- maybe a hundred words. I'm thinking that a hundred posts would be about equivalent to a chapter in a book or a short MUCK log.

To sum up: I really don't know what sort of traffic my next game will generate. The issues posed by traffic levels vary, too, depending on player habits and expectations (both IC and OOC). Some examples to consider:

* X, Y and Z are having an active conversation one evening when they're all at their computers. A fourth PC, played by A, is technically in the scene but for whatever reason he's not checking his email so his PC isn't talking. The ensuing conversation is similar to a MUCK log, with each comment in its own post. The next morning, A checks his email and sees 90 new messages. If you are A, will this bother you?

* A responds to 20 of the messages from the flurry last night, inserting his PC into the conversation and re-starting some discussions that X, Y and Z had settled. If you are X, Y or Z, will this bother you?

* The party leader goes with the plan X, Y and Z worked out the night before. The GM starts responding as if it were unfolding, even though X and Y would like to change the plan based on A's insights. Is this a problem?

* Does your reaction vary based on the time lapsed? For example, what if the conversation between X, Y and Z takes place over three days, and then A responds, as opposed to responding 10 hours later? Does it matter if A is regularly delayed in responding, or if this is a rare occurence? Likewise, does it matter if X, Y and Z are often much more active than A or if that only happens now and again?

* Examples of how IC expectations can impact this: if A is playing a PC who has no background in the subject X, Y and Z were discussing, A will care less that he "missed" the conversation than he would if his PC were the party expert. If X's PC is a very cautious sort who hates taking action without thorough consideration first, he will probably be happier about having A extend the conversation than he would if his PC were impatient and eager to get to the action.

I want to note that feeling some or all of these things could be annoying is perfectly reasonable and normal. Yes, it's a game and it would be lovely if all of us could be sublimely indifferent to all of its quirks and oddities, but the truth is if we didn't care about such things we probably wouldn't care about playing at all.

What I want to do now is try to set expectations of what's "normal". Some possible questions for those thinking of playing: what volume of traffic do you think would be too much? Just right? Not enough? (You can answer in terms of either "for the whole list" or "per participant", whichever you feel is more accurate.) If traffic on the list goes over what you consider "too much", how would you want to resolve that? What if it's too little? How much of a concern to you is this likely to pose -- ie, would you be okay if you're making one post a day while others do ten, or vice versa?*

I know that some of you have little experience with PBEMs, so this is asking for guesses in the dark. And the truth is even people with some experience aren't going to know what will work this game. So I'm not going to be surprised or offended if you get into playing and find your feelings change. This isn't the final word, but a starting place. Also, if some of you are thinking "10 posts a day is too many" and others "less than 30 is too few", then I'll know now it's probably better not to put you in the same game together. :)

* You don't have to answer all of these, and feel free to make comments on any related topics. I'll answer these questions myself in a later comment to this post, but I want other people to give their answers first so they'll have slightly less bias. :)
rowyn: (studious)
I've been thinking about running another game. (For those who didn't know, the game I started in December officially died in April).

I like PBEM as an RP structure: the asynchronous and unscheduled nature of it works well for me. But in my (admittedly limited) experience with it, it's got certain inherent disadvantages and I've been pondering ways to address them in my next game. Because why should I make the same old mistakes when I could make exciting new mistakes instead? >:)

One issue: the pace of action. PBEMs tend towards long discussions by the PCs about what they ought to do, and rather less of the PCs actually doing things. This is an issue in all RP, actually, but it's exacerbated by the slower pace of email. There's a tremendous amount of back-and-forth to get to the best possible plan and to achieve consensus, and in cases where the last isn't reached, the PCs are sometimes left taking no action themselves and waiting for whatever the GM does next instead. Which may well make all the previous discussions obsolete and require a whole new round of planning.

I love the discussions among PCs: they're one of the things that make PBEM work for me, because they keep the game alive and the players actve while the GM plans. If all the posts by players required direct GM response, the game would be less active and interesting. This said, spending several days and a couple hundred posts trying and failing to reach a consensus gets frustrating.

So I've been thinking about various ways to address this problem. Ideas I've had so far:

1) Solo. This is throwing the baby out with the bathwater, IMO, but having only one player would make intraparty consensus pretty easy to achieve. Also, I've had a lot of successful experience with one-on-one games on MUCKs, so it might be fun.

2) Similar PCs. Under this option, all the PCs would be designed to have not only the same goal but also similar ideologies and worldviews. The idea here is that it would take less time for three liberals to agree on a plan than it would for a communist, a conservative, and a libertarian. While the theory has some validity, I think diversity leads to more interesting RP, and also that people will find stuff to argue about no matter how similar their intent. I mention this more for the sake of completeness than because I'd really like to try it.

3) PC Party Leader. I've heard of these before, but I've never been in a campaign, as either GM or player, where the group had a de facto party leader. I've hardly been in any that had even a nominal party leader. So I don't know how well having one works in practice, but if nothing else it'd be different for me.

4) NPC Party Leader. I've never heard of this being done, but it's got some appeal. I wouldn't run an NPC leader who used his own ideas (I might as well write a book if I'm gonna do that), but the PCs could come up with ideas and throw them around for a while, then have the NPC step in and make a decision when the GM is ready to move on. I'm not sure if the NPC leader would decide at random, or based on whatever the GM thinks would be the most fun. I mean, I could decide based on whatever would be most successful, but where's the fun in that? >:)

5) Co-Stars and Supporting Cast. Under this model, two or three players would get "starring" roles and make decisions for their own characters or try to work with the co-stars. The other players would be the supporting cast: they could contribute ideas and RP, but would ultimately either go along with whatever the stars wanted or bow out of the plot. This idea doesn't resolve the consensus problem that well, as getting even three PCs to agree on a strategy can be a big hurdle. Still, it's an option between a free-for-all and the more restrictive party-leader method.

6) The Terrible Way. This phrase was coined in +terrible butterflies+, and referred to the decision by any PC to skip discussing ideas and just do whatever the PC thought best at the moment. This caused a lot of trouble, but it was also a lot of fun. Now, as aforementioned, I like discussions, but a game mechanic where PCs occassionally had to go with their ideas could be fun. Like "Roll d6, on 1-2: PC does it now, 3-4: PC talks about it but will do it anyway if PC still like the idea (even if everyone else hates it), 5-6: player's discretion." Also, having it as a built-in feature of the game might mitigate some of the IC animosity that this style of play can generate.

All of these options assume the setting and character concepts are integrated with the OOC plan. PCs bound by the Terrible Way will not be soldiers in a squad of crack commandoes, but ones with an NPC leader might be.

As the GM, I can live with any of these options. To find out how potential players feel, I will use the handy-dandy poll feature. I won't take voting as a firm commitment to play on anyone's part, but please only vote in the poll if you are interested in playing in my next game.

One final note -- I am (don't laugh!) going to try to make the next game "short". By which I mean, it will cover an IC period of hours or possibly a few days at most. I don't expect it to be quick in RL terms, but I'm hoping for a game that runs for a few months RL, as opposed to my usual time length best measured in years. So whatever the game goes with, no one's going to have to live with it for very long. :)

[Poll #1209596]

If you have any other clarifications (like you'd be interested in a "PC leader" game, but only if you don't have to play the leader), or if you've got favorites among the choices you're willing to live with, please leave a comment about it. Thanks!

April 2019



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